Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
African violets are one of America's favorite houseplants, and one of the least demanding in terms of care to grow and flower.
To begin with, African violets prefer soils that are evenly moist. Improper watering, especially overwatering, is a primary cause of problems. Allow the soil to dry out only slightly before watering, then water from below.
Flush out fertilizer salts with a thorough watering from the top at least once a month. And keep wet foliage out of the sun as the heat can leave marks.
Violets are sensitive to extremes in water temperature. Water that's too hot or too cold will cause white rings on the leaves. Allow water to stand overnight to bring it to room temperature and dissipate any chlorine present.
To produce constant bloom, apply fertilizer on a regular basis. But don't over do it. Slow- release fertilizers are a practical way to supply safe levels of nutrients at each watering.
Violets need strong, bright light but not direct sun. Lack of light curtails blooming and causes leaves to grow upright. Too much light results in leaves that are brittle, scorched, and yellow. Under natural light, an east window is often the best in winter. Northern exposures are better during hot, summer months.
African violets thrive under fluorescent lights turned on for 12 to 16 hours a day. Use a single fixture with two 20-watt or two 40-watt lamps placed 10 to 12 inches above the plants.
The optimum temperature for this houseplant is between 65 and 75 degrees F. Temperatures below 60 degrees F or above 80 degrees F will result in reduced bloom. Keep violets away from frosty windowpanes during cold winter months. Or insulate with a thick layer of newspaper between plants and glass. If your house is dry, place the plants on trays filled with wet pebbles to increase the humidity.
Removing suckers from the center of plants will allow more light to penetrate, resulting in more flowers. Tight, bunched centers are often caused by too much fertilizer. Check the soil surface for white salt deposits.
Infestation by cyclamen mites also may produce distorted centers. Mite-ridden plants should be discarded, and the pots and tools used sterilized.
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